Dividing her essays into worlds, women, psychoanalysis, religion, portraits, and writing, Julia Kristeva explores the phenomenon of hate (and our attempts to subvert, sublimate, and otherwise process the emotion) through a number of key texts and contexts. Her inquiry spans the themes, topics, and figures that have been central to her writing over the past three decades, and her paths of discovery advance the theoretical innovations that are so characteristic of her thought.
Kristeva rearticulates and extends her analysis of language, abjection, idealization, female sexuality, love, and forgiveness. She examines the "maladies of the soul," utilizing examples from her practice and the ailments of her patients (fatigue, irritability, and general malaise), and she sources the Bible and texts by Marguerite Duras, St. Teresa of Avila, Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, and Georgia O'Keefe. Kristeva balances political calamity and individual pathology, addressing internal and external catastrophes, and global and personal injuries, and she confronts the nature of depression, obliviousness, fear, and the agony of being and nothingness. Throughout she develops the idea that psychoanalysis remains key to serenity, with its turning back, looking back, investigation of the self, and refashioning of psychical damage into something useful or beautiful. Constant questioning, Kristeva contends, is essential to achieving a coming to terms.